April 25th is Financial Health Matters Day. This day serves as an opportunity to raise awareness about the impact of the financial health challenges faced by families in our community and the need for cross-sector collaboration and solutions.

Poor financial and physical health go hand in hand

Most people are one medical emergency or treatment away from financial catastrophe.

A health condition, costly healthcare, and gaps in insurance can all lead to significant expenses and the loss of income. Expensive health emergencies can be particularly detrimental for households with low savings, a lack of assets, or poor credit history. In addition, financial circumstances impact health decision-making as well as access to and quality of care. For example, a recent study found that households are either delaying medical treatment or delaying payment for treatment until they have appropriate cash flow. (1) Such financial insecurity can worsen health outcomes; fostering toxic physiological stress (2) and chronic disease.

Financial stress impacts the health of expecting mothers and babies

A growing body of research is finding that a pregnant woman’s financial stress can impact her health as well as her developing fetus causing lower birth weight, prematurity, and related conditions of medical vulnerability for an infant. (3,4) In fact, according to a 2015 study published in Maternal and Child Health Journal, financial life event stressors, rather than other commonly cited variables such as adverse health behaviors, were more likely to impact birth outcomes.(3) Financial strain has also been associated with other factors such as depression, anxiety, and distress, all of which have been shown to negatively impact birth weight. (5)

Income inequality exacerbates those at risk

This 2015 study found the most pronounced effects amongst African Americans; the odds of delivering a low birth weight (LBW) baby among African American women who experienced a financial stressor during pregnancy were almost 50% greater compared to those African American women who did not experience a financial stressor when holding other variables constant. (3)

Additionally, the data shows that populations with socioeconomic or wealth disparities have higher infant mortality and deliver babies of lower birth weight. In Palm Beach County, the LBW percentage from 2011-2017 was 9% overall and rose to 12% for African Americans. (6) While Palm Beach County has a median income that ranks in the top 10 of the state of Florida ($60,100), the median yearly income among Black families is nearly $20,000 lower at $41,500, suggesting a link between income and the higher percentage of LBW babies compared to White and Hispanic newborns (both at 7%). (6, 7)

A Call to Action:

There is a pressing need to offer tools, protections, and services to help people plan for and manage the financial impacts of maternal and infant care. Women and their families are faced with a number of challenges, from navigating health insurance, to anticipating healthcare costs, to planning for parental leave in an uncertain labor market, to budgeting for a baby in a country with high childcare costs, among other stressors.

To better support families on the path to financial health will require us to better understand the connections between mothers’ financial health and fetal and infant health outcomes, explore the role of racial and cultural factors, and find solutions.

Such steps forward require deeper collaboration across the health and financial health sectors

To that end, The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) is collaborating with the Florida Institute for Health Innovation on a research study examining links between financial health and infant mortality. The goal is to identify ways in which healthcare and social service providers can best support the financial health of the families they serve.  We hope to identify ways that these organizations, as well as financial institutions, fintechs and others can help families build short-term and long-term savings, plan for future needs, and manage day-to-day emergencies.

Stay tuned for an upcoming webinar during Infant Mortality Awareness Month in September when we will be sharing the results!

As community leaders and those on the frontlines of supporting women, infants and families, we can do our part to ensure that those we serve are informed about and connected to the resources available to support their financial planning needs:

Know of additional financial health resources in our community?

Share them in the comments section below!

[1] https://www.jpmorganchase.com/corporate/institute/institute.htm
[2] https://assetfunders.org/wp-content/uploads/HealthandWealth_Presentation_April_2017.pdf
[3] Zhao, Y., Kershaw, T., Ettinger, A.S. et al. (2015). Association Between Life Event Stressors and Low Birth Weight in African American and White Populations: Findings from the 2007 and 2010 Los Angeles Mommy and Baby (LAMB) Surveys Matern Child Health J 19: 2195. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25665895?report=abstract
[4] Study: Stressing about finances can be harmful to a baby’s health
[5] Mitchell, A. M., & Christian, L. M. (2016). Financial strain and birth weight: the mediating role of psychological distress. Archives of women’s mental health20(1), 201–208. Retrieved from  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5239729/
[6] http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/app/florida/2019/measure/factors/63/data
[7] http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/app/florida/2019/measure/outcomes/37/map

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